Robert Jennings began his career at Penrith in 2015 with so much hype and promise and then – roughly a year later – he was gone.
Now, six years after making his NRL debut at the foot of the Mountains, the youngest of the famed Jennings clan is back where it all began.
“This definitely feels like a second chance for me,” Jennings told the Weekender.
“I’m very fortunate to be given this opportunity… when it got tossed up to come back, I straight away jumped on it.”
After leaving the Panthers at the end of 2016, Jennings signed with South Sydney for 2017 and 2018 before switching to the Wests Tigers the previous two seasons.
The 25-year-old father of two admits he grew up a lot during his time away, and now returns to Penrith a better player and man.
“When I first left this club, I was young at the time, I didn’t really know too much about what I wanted to do. I obviously wanted to stay and play my footy here in Penrith, but it didn’t work out,” Jennings said.
“But, having left, I feel like I’ve grown as a player. To be able to come back a changed man feels good. Reuniting with the boys, I just want to work hard now and earn my spot in the side.”
If the speedy centre/winger is called into Ivan Cleary’s line-up at some stage this season, he should fit in rather seamlessly having played the majority of his junior career with several players in the Panthers NRL squad including Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards and Tyrone May.
Jennings said if he does manage to crack into the first grade team, he’ll feel right at home.
“Coming back to Panthers, it’s like I never left. As soon as I got back, it was an easy fit,” he said.
“Just coming back to the boys I grew up with and played all my junior footy with – there’s a lot of familiar faces, which is good, and it’ll make it easier for me because that chemistry is already there.”
While Jennings is only signed for the current 2021 season, he’s planning to give his second coming at Penrith everything he’s got, so he doesn’t have to leave again.
“The plan is to stay here long-term, I want to play good footy to be able to get that opportunity,” he said.
“I just have to work hard, put my head down and earn my place in the team. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.